Tri-City Americans

Rankin, Hughesman key Ams win

KENNEWICK -- It was a Wild West shootout Sunday night at Toyota Center. The only thing missing were the cowboys.

Connor Rankin scored a natural hat trick in the second period and Adam Hughesman had four assists on the night as the Tri-City Americans held off a Portland rally for a 6-5 WHL victory before 3,575 fans.

"It's always entertaining. The fans get their money's worth," said Americans coach Jim Hiller, whose team opened its season 2-0-0-0. "What you saw, clearly, was we get a couple of goals -- bang-bang -- and thought it was over. They got a couple short-handed, and we had to scratch and claw at the end. We shouldn't have expected anything less."

The Winterhawks, playing without eight players who still are with their respective NHL teams, suffered their first loss.

"We can take a lot of positives out of this game," said Portland forward Ty Rattie, who had two goals and an assist. "We were down 5-nothing and we didn't panic. Coming into Tri, you are going to be in deficits. I tried not to panic, stay calm and be a leader out there. We responded well."

Tri-City had a 2-0 lead after the first period, but Rankin made it 5-0 with his first WHL hat trick in a span of 1 minute, 53 seconds. It was the first natural hat trick for an Americans player since Justin Feser on Oct. 11, 2008.

Rankin's first goal came just 32 seconds into the period, chipping in a loose puck in at the left post.

Goal No. 2 found the net at 2:16 on the power play as he took a pass from Hughesman and beat Portland's rookie goalie Brendan Burke at the right post.

That was the end of the night for Burke, who gave up four goals on 12 shots.

Just nine seconds after his second goal, Rankin struck again. Mason Wilgosh won a face-off at center ice, gathered the loose puck and fed Rankin, who beat Mac Carruth to give Tri-City a 5-0 lead.

"It's exciting," Rankin said of his accomplishment. "I can't thank Hughesman and (Mason) Wilgosh enough -- without them, I have no goals. The first one I saw the puck come out and the whole net was open. That was easy. The second was a breakaway pass from Hughesman and the third was off a terrific pass from Wilgosh. Sometimes it's better to be luck than good."

The line of Hughesman, Rankin and Wilgosh accounted for four goals and seven assists.

"That line was very dynamic," Hiller said.

There are no Americans team records for the fast three goals by one player. The WHL record is 24 seconds by Jim Harrison of the Estevan Bruins on Dec. 4, 1966 against Regina.

Tri-City's 5-0 lead was short-lived as Taylor Peters and Brad Ross scored back-to-back short-handed goals to make it 5-2 at 4:37 of the period.

Mackenzie Royer scored his first goal of the season, picking up a rebound off a Brian Williams shot and slipping it past Carruth at 9:33 for a 6-2 game.

A pair of Rattie power-play goals -- the second coming with just .2 seconds left in the period, cut the deficit to 6-4.

Peters added another goal just 1:29 into the third, but that would be all the Americans would give up.

"We handled ourselves pretty well," Rankin said of the third. "Any time you are up 5-0 and they come back is scary. You learn from that -- next time it could be worse."

The Americans took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period, with Williams getting things started with his first WHL goal at 2:22.

Williams, camped out at the top of the crease, took a cross-ice pass out of the right corner from Hughesman and beat Burke, who was making his first career start.

"Hughesman did 80 percent of the work," Williams said. "I just shot it. Everything is going great, but it's still early. I will face adversity sooner or later, but I am enjoying it now."

Wilgosh gave the Americans a 2-0 lead late in the first, taking a back-handed pass from Rankin and going 5-hole on Burke from the left hash marks at 18:22.

Eric Comrie, getting his first start for the Americans, finished with 32 saves.

For Hughesman, it was his fifth career game of four points or more. He had five points -- four goals and one assist -- against Portland his rookie season.